Saturday, January 06, 2007

How Did We Miss This?

I was been bagging and boarding my comics (turns out I had two longboxes worth just sitting around in piles) when I can across New Avengers #4 and its Spider-Woman cover.

It reminded me of an old post on Mortlake on the Schuylkill where Melchior quoted a Bendis interview from Wizard Magazine:
"Wonder Woman won't sleep with you--but you have a shot with Jessica," says Bendis. "You're not waiting in line behind Superman." (p. 77)
Naturally, we all mocked him for fantasizing about ink and paper.

We missed something more damning.

That quote is the perfect example of a writer writing for men and not for people. It goes to the heart of every problem with female characters in pop culture. Spider-Woman isn't considered better than Wonder Woman because she has a simpler backstory, a more relatable personality, or more potential as a character. She's just a fantasy fuck that's closer to reality. This writer isn't even trying to get his readers to identify with the character here, he's presenting her as something to masturbate over.

It all comes down to writing characters of one gender as who your readers want to be, and characters of the other gender as who your readers want to have. This quote illustrates that attitude perfectly.

It makes me wonder how many of these female characters are written as sexually open because the writer thinks an active sexuality is an interesting character trait with story potential, and how many are just written that way because they think men will only read about women they'd be able to get into bed. It also depresses the hell out of me.

On the other hand, it makes me glad I'm not reading any Bendis books right now.

It's an old quote from an old magazine, and its a point that's been made before (many times through art, and I think Melchior may have felt it was worth being left unstated), but I just had to go back and point it out again. I just wish I'd noticed it and made a bigger fuss back in February.


  1. As a guy, I'm of the opinion that Bendis may have been suggesting that no one could possibly play second fiddle to Superman, quite independent of who he's dating, so why try? The quote you mention may only be saying that Jessica is at all attainable.

    But maybe that's just me.

  2. Raistlinsghost -- Well, that also plays on my WW + Superman pet peeve (Steve forever!), but I don't know. If he were specifically discussing a love life I could see the "more attainable" thing having some sort of bearing.

    But the guy had the chance for only five short reasons why this character would be the "Biggest Female Character in 2006" and he spends one of them on how likely it is for the average comic-book reading heterosexual male to date her.

    The fact that that's a good reason to read a book about her bears some analysis.

  3. I'm disappointed in Bendis. After reading Powers I know he can write strong, independent female characters... he doesn't have an excuse for not doing so with the Avengers.

  4. We missed something more damning.

    That quote is the perfect example of a writer writing for men and not for people.

    Agreed, except that I'd say he's writing for boys, not men. As a male, I aver that anyone who thinks of any comic book character with any degree of sexual attainability falls short of the bare minimum requirements for manhood.

  5. Maybe I'm just a different type of creepy fanboy than Bendis is, but wouldn't Wonder Womans unatainability kind of be the appeal of sexual fantasies about the character? I mean, we're talking about fucking fictional characters here, so why not go for the best? If we're already in fantasyland why not fantasize about being so awesome that you're able to defeat Batman AND Superman AND Steve Trevor AND whoever else might matter in terms of gaining Dianas attention?

  6. I agree. :| I've always felt that comic book male heroes are who the boys want to be, but comic book female heroes are not who the girls want to be, but who the boys want the girls to be. >:|

  7. Wow, I thought Spider-Woman: Origin couldn't be any creepier.. .but that did it.

  8. You can't find a bigger Spider-Woman fan than myself, but I never quite thought of her *that* way.

    I liked her because she was cool and had that outcast vibe Marvel does so well.

    Back in the day, those pheromones didn't attract people - they REPULSED them.

    Therefore, she was less a sex object and more a strong-minded woman trying to get her life together despite some major odds against her.

    At least, until Michael Fleischer got his hands on her ...

  9. Wow, what's going on in that cover? It looks painful.

    (And I won't comment on the Bendis quotation, since I don't know that much about Spider-Woman, except for an, "Ouch.")

  10. ' "Wonder Woman won't sleep with you--but you have a shot with Jessica," says Bendis. '

    Wow, I do?

    Gee, I'd better dump my beautiful flesh-and-blood girlfriend, then!


  12. See, when I first saw what you said about "how could we have missed this?", I thought you were talking about the impossible angle on Jessica's left leg on that cover.

  13. Yeah, Ragnell, I left this element of the quote unstated, and it's definitely worth saying, I think.

    Everything about that piece in Wizard just sucked: Bendis' quote; what it implied; and the idiotic caption accompanying the image.

  14. This also explains why Spider-Woman, like way too many women in super-hero comics, is in a perpetual state of self esteem crisis.